How much can Tebow Help his NFL Chances?

Tim Tebow made the decision to return to Florida for his senior season and gives no sign of having ever had any second thoughts about his choice. The opportunity to win a third championship and possibly a second Heisman Trophy could make this a remarkable conclusion to his already stellar college career. Will it also prove to have enhanced his chances of a high draft spot to begin his NFL career?

A look at the league's teams indicates that might not be a sure thing.

Where would Tebow have gone had he entered the 2009 draft? There's no way to know for sure, of course, but no draft gurus believed he was a first rounder this season. After the three first round quarterbacks, all selected by pick 17, only two players went at the position between that spot and the late fifth round. Miami selected Pat White of West Virginia with the 44th pick in the draft to be a possible "Wildcat" QB/receiver combo. Some NFL analysts have envisioned that sort of role for Tebow. It's hard to imagine Tebow wouldn't have gone before Stephen McGee of Texas A&M, chosen by Dallas to lead off the fourth round. So let's assume, particularly in a lean year for the position, that Tebow would have been a late second to mid third rounder. Can he do better than that in 2010?

One thing which may help Tebow is Florida's plan to have him run some plays from under center in a more pro-style look this season. New quarterback coach Scot Loeffler's NFL experience could also assist him in improving his skills in areas the pros are focused on. What Tebow can't control is how many teams are looking for quarterbacks as an early need or how many other highly regarded prospects are in the same draft as him. That could be the thing which keeps an improved Tebow from reaping the rewards on draft day.

Oklahoma's Sam Bradford may have been the first player picked in this season's draft had he chosen to come out. He could conceivably opt to return to Norman for the 2010 season as a redshirt senior but most anticipate he will enter the draft. Barring a major dropoff or injury, he will be ranked ahead of Tebow. Colt McCoy is projected as high as a top 10 pick by some draft gurus, and likely will be ranked ahead of Tebow as well. Jevan Snead, the Ole Miss quarterback who transferred to avoid having to compete with McCoy at Texas, has been touted as the likely number one overall pick in the 2010 draft by one prominent national NFL media member. Tebow could easily be a better NFL prospect than he would have been this season and yet still wind up stuck in the fourth spot of the QB pecking order.

Which teams would seem likely to be seeking a quarterback in the first round next year? Thanks to recent trades and high draft choices at the position, only around 10 appear to be even potentially in the market. In the AFC, very few teams seem likely to look for QB help as a primary need. One interesting spot could be Tebow's home area Jacksonville Jaguars, depending on whether David Garrard plays as he did before getting a contract extension. The pressure on them to select Tebow will be enormous should Garrard falter. Denver will likely need someone unless Kyle Orton convinces them he's a long term answer. If Tennessee has given up on Vince Young, they'll need someone young to develop at the quarterback spot. Even though Tom Brady returns, New England may be the wild card since they have a boatload of draft picks to work with and Bill Belichick has spent plenty of time observing Tebow.

The NFC side sees more teams with potential needs at quarterback, but not all of them can do much about it in the draft. The whole NFC West could use some young help at the position, although after Alex Smith flopping it's hard to imagine San Francisco drafting another Urban Meyer quarterback. Carolina has an aging Jake Delhomme with no credible youngster developing behind him, but they traded away their 2010 number one already. Minnesota and New Orleans are the only other teams which might have a big enough need to select a QB early.

It only takes one team to believe in a player and draft him early, and Tebow does have NFL admirers. Peter King of Sports Illustrated reported earlier this year that one team's scout told him they would take Tebow in the first round because of his winning qualities and then figure out what to do with him. Count on him being the most discussed and debated prospect in the draft leading up to the event next year. Until then, Florida fans can rest easy knowing that Tebow has shown no signs of letting the perpetual discussion of his future affect his performance in the present.


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